Habit changing techniques w/ Dr Joe Parent
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Habit changing techniques w/ Dr Joe Parent

Dr. Parent: Yeah, I’m happy to do that. The NINJA technique for changing habits, that you find in Zen Golf and in the Best Diet Book Ever and my other books, then NINJA technique for changing habits, the letters stand for Necessary Intention Non-Judgmental Awareness. So, first you have to have necessary intention. There was an old psychologist joke, ‘How many psychologists does it take to change a light bulb?’ The answer is, only one, but the light bulb has to want to change. So, the joke is, it’s based on the truth that for somebody to make a change, they have to have a strong desire, they have to want to change. That’s the N-I of NINJA, Necessary Intention. But then as I talked about negative attention – let me start that over. As I talked about negative reinforcement, only perpetuates a habit. So, to change a habit, you have to have Non-Judgmental Awareness, that’s the NJA of NINJA. Non-judgmental awareness means mindfulness of simply noticing what you just did and never saying if it’s in accord with or against your intention. And rather than beating yourself up, you don’t judge yourself, you just count. You either count the number of times you do it, or you rate the extent to which you did the intention or the opposite of the intention. So, for example, if your intention is to swing without holding back, swing freely, you write the word ‘swing freely’ free from interference on your scorecard, and you rate each full swing on a 1-5 scale, where 5 is no interference and 1 is total interference and total holding back. The more fours and fives you get, the better golf you are going to play. If you want to eliminate the ‘anyways’ that I talked about of not being ready and going ahead and swinging anyway, you count this and you just put a mark down for each one, each time you do it and at the end of the round, you could them up and say, ‘Oh, today I had eight anyways, my intention is to have less and less of those.’ I’ll give you an example of how this works. I had a golf-pro, a club-pro, whose friend sent him to me because he said, my friends won’t play with me anymore. He was like a little kid. He said, ‘My friends won’t play with me anymore until I come and see you because I whine about and complain about every shot.’ So, what I had him do is just – and he says, I have tried to stop. And I said, don’t try to stop, don’t beat yourself over it, just count the number of times you complain during the round of golf without judging yourself. He called me back and he said, ‘Okay, my first round after we talked I had 60 complaints and he shot a 72 and probably had 12 [Inaudible 0:35:18]. So yes, he complained about every shot, but the next round – I said, don’t judge yourself, you just count it, your intention is to do it less. The next round he had 27. The third round he had seven and his fourth round he played without complaining about a single shot. What he discovered was, when the negativity of complaining disappeared, you know, that’s the clay on the statue that I talked about, the gold of positive intentions started to showing up. He said, ‘I actually hit a ball in the woods and instead of complaining about my situation, I looked for an opening that would put me a good distance from my iron away from the hole and gave myself a chance to get up and down for par.’ And that is how he changed from complainer to somebody with a positive attitude.

Dr Joseph Parent

dr joe parent

Dr. Joe Parent has coached the mental game in business, life and golf for over 30 years. A distinguished PGA TOUR Instructor, he has attracted such clients as major champions Vijay Singh, David Toms, Juli Inkster and Cristie Kerr.

He also coaches many top level amateurs and juniors, and is the mental game coach for the men’s and women’s golf teams at Pepperdine University. About his first book, the bestselling ZEN GOLF: Mastering the Mental Game, Golf Digest reviewers say, “Here is a book that is highly original and exciting, destined to become a classic. Dr. Parent is a groundbreaking writer.”

Now in its seventeenth printing, there are over a quarter-million copies in print world-wide, including foreign editions in seven languages.

GOLF: The Art of the Mental Game pairs Zen Golf lessons with the timeless drawings of Anthony Ravielli, illustrator of Ben Hogan’s Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf. and is published by the incomparable Rizzoli.

As a result of his writing and his instruction of PGA TOUR players, Golf Digest named Dr. Joe to each of their lists of “Top Ten Mental Game Experts” in the world, and made him a featured instructor in their popular instructional section: “Breaking 100-90-80 and 70.” His work was also highlighted in GOLF Magazine, in an eight page spread entitled “Come On, Get Happy,” where Dr. Joe helped two editors at the magazine shoot their best rounds ever!
In the early 1970’s, Dr. Joe encountered the mindful awareness practices of Buddhism that explained self-defeating patterns of behavior and provided profound methods to transform them. After completing his Ph.D. in psychology, he began bringing his insights to golf and business. Since then he has become a renowned and sought-after instructor of the mental game in all aspects of life; teaching the path to success to hundreds of professionals and amateurs in golf and other sports, as well as to top executives seeking cutting-edge business insights.

He is a highly regarded keynote speaker at corporate, celebrity and charity events hosted by companies such as Bank of America, Morgan Stanley, Pimco, Merrill Lynch, UBS, Dreyfus, Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, Salomon Brothers, Transamerica, Fidelity, AIG, CBRE, the World Presidents Organization, PGA of America, the Tiger Woods Foundation, the First Tee Foundation and many others.

Dr. Joe has been featured on CNN, NBC’s Today in New York, HBO Sports, ESPN, and many appearances on The Golf Channel. The ZEN GOLF book is featured in a widely circulated MasterCard “Priceless” ad, and had its own cameo appearance being read by Ray Romano on “Everybody Loves Raymond,” and HOW TO MAKE EVERY PUTT was read by Malcolm McDowell on “Franklin & Bash.” Dr. Joe has coached Ray, Malcolm, Michael Bolton, Kevin James, Anthony Anderson, George Lopez, Bernie Mac, Michael O’Keefe (Danny Noonan in Caddyshack), Richard Schiff, Robby Krieger (The Doors), Hall of Fame running back Marcus Allen, world champion boxer Oscar de la Hoya, and many other elite athletes and celebrity golfers.

Dr. Joe Parent teaches at the Los Angeles Country Club and at the Ojai Valley Inn and Spa Resort, Ojai, California.

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Founder and chief curator of the Golf Science Lab. Documenting what's going on in the world of research and beyond that can help you play your best golf on the golf course (when it counts). Join the movement of researched based coaching over trusting beliefs and what worked for one person a few decades ago. Follow on Twitter